Arrive in peace? It’s something I seldom accomplished for the first 34 years of my Christian life. Arrive in a state of anxiety and frustration? Now that’s something I was really good at.
Shortly after I received Jesus as my Savior at the age of 8, I turned to a works Christianity mentality. I loved God so much that I felt I needed to work constantly at “being good” so He would be pleased with me. This resulted in me running almost continually on my treadmill of accomplishment, spending the majority of my time measuring myself to see what areas I needed to improve in.
As a result of the battle going on inside me, I was very rule-oriented with my kids, my husband and myself. Looking back, I believe this was a way I hoped to appear in control outwardly since I felt like such a failure on the inside. My mountain of rules often left my family feeling like they could never measure up to my standards. This wore us all down over the years and caused stress in our relationships, but believe it or not, I didn’t even see what I was doing to my family or myself. I was deceived.
After living this way for 34 years and experiencing severe health crisis’ as a result, I was completely worn out. The Apostle Paul perfectly expresses my state of mind here in Romans 7:24.
I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question? (MSG)
By the end of 2011, I had indeed come to the end of my rope. I told God I just couldn’t live the Christian life anymore because I was so tired from trying and failing. I also told Him that I needed serious help.
And help me He did. One week later during my morning devotional time, on Jan. 2, 2012, I asked God if there was anything that He wanted me to accomplish in the coming year. This was a ridiculous question for me to be asking because “accomplishing” is all I spent my time doing.
No, God didn’t have a list of things He wanted me to accomplish that day, but He certainly wanted to accomplish some things in me. It was about that time when I felt God’s love flood the room like a tidal wave—His great and unconditional love for me. That day, God made it very clear to me that I’m ok—that He loved me for me simply because I am His daughter, not for what I do for Him.
I remember walking around my house for week’s afterword saying, “I’m ok, I’m ok, I’m ok.” It felt amazing to finally feel this way after all those years of trying to measure up. I sensed a deep, abiding peace. A peace that surpasses all understanding that the Apostle Paul wrote about to the church of Philippi in Philippians 4:7.
This new peace went on day after day, month after month and has now continued for over 3 years. That day, beginning on January 2, God set me on a journey to understand the riches of His grace. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I didn’t even know what grace really was or how it applied to my life.
Along my journey I discovered that grace is so much more than a message or a theological concept. Grace is the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus is God’s grace personified!
For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people. Titus 2:11 (NLT)
True freedom came when I fully understood the person of Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross. God helped me take my eyes off of myself and my own performance, and placed my eyes on Jesus and what He has accomplished for me. This has been the most freeing thing about my grace journey. It causes me to live in this wonderful place of rest and it can do the same for you as well!
Here’s an example. A couple of weeks ago I was supposed to go to the grocery store on Wednesday. Didn’t happen. Then Thursday. Didn’t happen. Lots of unexpected things came up. I’m sure this never happens to you, right?! Then by Friday afternoon, once I realized I was not going to get there again, I knew I had a choice to make. I could grit my teeth and leap forward in my own self-efforts, trying to control the situation the same as I had all those years prior to my new understanding of grace. As I thought about this choice I knew it wasn’t the way I wanted to go because it would result in frustration.
My other choice was to take my faith out of my self-effort and place it, right then and there, in God’s grace. I knew, from my previous three years of experience with grace, that this second choice would bring me peace. Thankfully, this time I chose to trust Jesus, who is grace, to work out the grocery store trip by opening up my time so I could get there. Indeed He did! That night at church our pastor finished a little bit early, so my twin girls and I headed to the store to see if we could get the shopping done in the 40 minutes before the store closed. Not only did we get our grocery shopping completed, but God had us in the right place at the right time to minister to the cashier and the bagger that night. It was so exciting because I knew it was definitely not by my own efforts, but by His grace that I was able to arrive in peace and stay spiritually perceptive to the assignment God had for me!
So you see, we always have a choice, but since we also have a flesh it doesn’t always seem easy to make the right choice. This is why prayer is so important. In fact, here’s the verse to prove it. This is the verse right before the one that tells us, if we do this, we will have peace that surpasses our understanding!
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Philippians 4:6– NLT
This is what I did when I chose peace that day. I took my problem to the Lord and trusted Him to provide a way for me where there seemed to be no way and He did. Great grace indeed!
These days I don’t lean on rules and regulations like I used to. Don’t get me wrong, we do have guidelines in our home, but now I turn to my Helper, the Holy Spirit, to guide me in my relationships with my family. Anyway you break it down, Spirit-led living is far superior to living by a never-ending list of rules. Spirit-led living produces much better results and guarantees a life of peace!
Sandra McCollom is the author of I Tried Until I Almost Died and can be found online at www.sandramccollom.com.